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 Summary: Two murders and a business card.  Lestrade must walk away or deal with a man he never wants to see again.

Rating: PG

Type: Gen

Word Count: 6400

This is part of a series of connected stories.  The other parts are here


My thanks as always to [livejournal.com profile] elfbert  for ideas and encouragement.  And a massive thank you to [livejournal.com profile] bronwynferchdai  for forensics and crime ideas and information, much of which ended up on the cutting room floor alas.

===================================


How many muggings there are in London depends on who you ask and how you define "mugging".

How many people are banged up for it depends on how stupid the muggers are, and this one wasn't stupid, but odd.

Neat, careful, focused. Which, in a "bash some poor sod up and steal his stuff to buy another hit" sort of crime is odd.

Lestrade wasn't all that happy being called out to stand about looking at the victim of a neat, careful, focused killer because neat, careful, focused meant the cops were clueless in both senses of the word.

The victim was neat. No signs of struggle: no torn or pulled clothing, no marks of dirt from the ground or the wall he was lying nearby. No defensive wounds, just a bit of blood on the breast of his jacket where the knife had gone in. The clothing very neat: no sign of a hasty search.

So neat that the woman who had found him had thought he was a drunk sleeping it off. And then a heart attack victim who had not got help in time. She hadn't even seen the blood in the dark, the beat constable who had been sent to investigate had seen that.

The killer had been careful. No witnesses, and according to the constable, the CCTV didn't cover this side street. The body was hidden by a skip so not easily visible from the main road.

Focused. They'd know more after the autopsy but from what Lestrade could see it was one clean strike. That was skill, add that to the list.

Neat, careful, focused, skilled. He had a feeling he knew what that added up to.

Especially when the victim's wallet is found dropped right near the body, admittedly without any cash in it, and the victim still has his expensive phone.

If the killer was trying to make it look like a mugging he'd done a piss poor job of it. If there was something in the wallet, then why not take the whole thing and dispose of it later? And how did he get the wallet, the corpse didn't look like it had been searched?

Single strike up into the heart meaning killer had been standing very close to the victim. Had he known his killer? Wallet out. Arranging for a quick blowjob and got a quick knifejob instead? Would explain being down the side street hidden by a skip. Autopsy would tell if there had been any sexual activity, until then it was all speculation.

There were two odd things about the body itself.

One was a wad of handwritten sheet music in the man's inside coat pocket.

The other was inside the wallet and not in the card case with all the other cards the man had on him. A simple white card.

With the name "Mycroft Holmes" and a number.

====================================

Lestrade looked at the sum total of their knowledge about the death of Geoffrey Maddox.

Which was bugger all really.

The autopsy confirmed the cause of death and found no sign of sexual activity, they could find no intimation at all that he was in the habit of paying rentboys. The place he was found was not on his usual way home but it was a possible path. The partial palmprint found on his wallet was not his but was not on file either.

That left the only other odd thing about this case. The wad of handwritten sheet music in Maddox's inner coat pocket.

Lestrade was no musician, so had no idea if the music was reasonable or not. But who hand wrote music nowadays? Maddox was no musician according to his ex-wife and his law firm, so why did he have it?

Learning to read or write music? An odd manifestation of a mid life crisis but probably cheaper than blondes and sportscars.

Then Donovan appeared with news.

"Sir, we may possibly have another by the same killer. Same MO: single fast upward strike into the heart and no sign of struggle. That's about all that's the same though. A woman, done in her flat in Peckham and not the street, nothing taken that we know of, there was money in her bag."

"Still it's more than we have now. Whose is that then?"

"DI Harding sir."

Harding was one of DCI Taylor's lot, down on the 3rd floor. Time to take a wander....

It hadn't been hard to find DI Harding, getting a few minutes of his time was the problem.

He was either way more overworked than Lestrade, or running round like a blue-arsed fly was his normal mode of operation. Either way it took a bit of effort to get his attention.

"Oh, the stabbing in Peckham. Yeah, pretend art student. I reckon she was turning tricks, there's more money in that place than a student should have, and more money in the bank. Probably offed by a john, never find him."

"Any prints at all?"

"Don't think so. Look, there's the file. I've got every sod and his dog on my back over that Hammersmith child killing, so no hurry to get it back to me. Having trouble finding the next of kin, so the flat's still sealed. If you can find anything, good luck to you!"

The flat did show more signs of money than an art student might usually have. Good furniture, expensive clothes in the wardrobe. Art on the walls and sculptures on the floor but those didn't mean much to him.

An easel over in one corner, set up for painting and some canvases stacked nearby. Place neat but not overly so. No signs of forced entry, so it was likely she had known her killer. Known him well enough to let him in, known him well enough to let him get close enough to her to drop her in the middle of her own living room.

And he had known enough to leave no traces.

"What are we looking for boss?"

"I have no idea." he said but then considered "Any kind of appointment diary or anything with dates on it, or addresses. Oh... and any sheet music."

Harding's people had been over it so there wasn't going to be much to find. But Stanner struck gold. "This was under a dresser sir. I think it had fallen behind and then down."

It was a full sheet of music, handwritten, with some pencil marks on it. "Don't suppose anyone's musical?"

"I had a few piano lessons as a kid" said Stanner "but I can't recall much. Looks a bit odd for a song, maybe it's exercises?"

There was nothing else here or in the file. No appointment book, no address book, no indication the woman had known any other human being.

And something else was missing that made Lestrade doubt Harding's theory that she did escort work. In Lestrade's experience women who did that preferred to have a room set aside for it so the trade didn't contaminate their private lives. The spare room had Ms Starling's paints set up in it so she wouldn't take johns there. Perhaps she worked in hotels? Where was her appointment book? Taken by the killer?

But if she wasn't getting her money that way, where was it coming from?

==============================

Lestrade looked at the case board. Nothing to link the two but sheet music and the way they were killed. Nothing. Harding's people had found the woman had been sporadic as a student, but had not been able to track her movements. Maddox was easier to track, but not by much. He lived alone, so while he arrived at work and left it at regular times, attended client meetings and the occasional after work drinks, what he did other than that was anyone's guess

Lestrade turned Mycroft Holmes's card over and over in his hands. There was no indication Holmes would know anything about this. If it had been his order then why the money gone? And why leave the body lying about? Hidden behind a skip it was too visible for a clandestine killing and too hidden to send a message.

And too sloppy generally, he was sure that if Holmes organised a killing he wouldn't be leaving bodies around for early bird cleaners to trip over when taking out the rubbish.

But Maddox had the card. Lestrade was sure Holmes didn't give them out to just anyone.

When his phone beeped he welcomed the distraction. Until he saw the message.

"I would like to talk to you about Geoffrey Maddox - MH"

====================================

Lestrade was shown into a different office, this one in a rather upmarket building in the City. Expensive furnishings, reasonable size. And Mycroft Holmes behind the desk, looking calm and in control.

Lestrade paid attention to his body language: head up, eyes sweeping the room then focusing on Holmes. A policeman doing a job he was good at.

"Good afternoon Inspector. I understand you are investigating the death of Geoffrey Maddox".

"I am Mr Holmes. What is your interest in Mr Maddox's death?"

"He was.. ah.. known to me."

Well that was ambiguous enough. Known as being on which side then?

"In what capacity Mr Holmes? It might have bearing on the case."

Holmes sat back and steepled his fingers, looking at Lestrade, showing that horrible little smile.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you that, Inspector. You do understand, I'm sure." He paused, watching, calculating, and Lestrade felt as if he wanted to squirm away from the intense gaze. He kept his eyes on Holmes and his hands from fidgeting.

"Yet I can tell," Holmes continued, "that you think you need that information. And were this a simple mugging - a street crime gone too far - you wouldn't feel that way. Tell me, Inspector, do you have any suspects?"

"At the moment Mr Holmes, my only suspect is you."

Holmes raised an eyebrow at that. "Really Inspector? Fascinating. I can assure you he was more use to me alive than dead. Why do you think I was involved?"

"Because when a man is killed in a way that suggests a professional hit, and someone whom I know organises professional hits enquires about it... But I don't think it was you. It was too sloppy. I think if you had been involved I wouldn't be."

He'd passed some sort of test it seemed as Holmes gestured him to a seat.


"What makes it a professional hit Inspector?"

Was Holmes fishing? Or did he know something? Lestrade suspected he didn't, meaning that there was nothing useful here.

Unless Holmes could make sense of the music.

He had a choice he realised. He could go back to the Yard and throw this in the Too Hard basket where Harding was going to throw the woman's death, or he could abase himself and ask for help from Holmes.

He was willing to endure Sherlock's insults in the hope of being thrown some crumbs, why mot Mycroft Holmes's? If it gets the case solved, then personal feelings are irrelevant.

"A single strike up into the heart under the breastbone. Fast and neat. No defensive wounds, no struggle. Practiced and clean."

Holmes acknowledged that with a nod.

Lestrade placed the autopsy report on the desk.

"Money gone, but not the phone or the watch, both expensive. No sign of the body being searched, the wallet found nearby all intact including your card except for the cash as far as we can tell.."

Photos of the scene joined the autopsy report.

"No indications of sexual activity, meaning it is unlikely it was a sexual transaction gone wrong. Not ruled out, but not likely, given the wound and that he wasn't robbed."

"We have half a palm print on the wallet, probably left because the owner’s glove slipped, but it's not on file. We have nothing else... except these."

And he placed the music sheets in their protective sleeves on Holmes's desk next to the reports.

Holmes picked them up and looked at each one in turn, Lestrade was sure he was humming as he did so. As he'd thought: if one brother was musical they both would be.

"We have also found another possible victim."

That got Holmes's attention.

"A young woman, killed in her flat in Peckham. No money missing, no obvious robbery. Just the same knife wound," a second autopsy report and a second set of photographs joined their fellows "and this under a dresser where it seems to have fallen from a larger pile."

The sheet of music joined the others on Holmes's desk.

"A code" said Holmes.

"It's the only sensible explanation. But what and why, and what do Maddox and Lyn Starling have in common? That's what we don't know Mr Holmes."

Holmes leaned back and steepled his fingers again, looking in Lestrade's general vicinity rather than right at him. For which he was grateful.

"Geoffrey Maddox was doing some work for me involving issues of national security." he said. "Very important, very secret work."

Lestrade should have realised he supposed. Ah well, out of his hands then. He stood up and started to gather the documents.

"I can leave you copies of the case summary Mr Holmes, and of the records of interview, but you will need to go through channels to take possession of the autopsy reports and the physical evidence. "

Holmes leant forward "And why would I do that Inspector? "

"I presume you will want your own people to investigate...."

"Why would I do that when there is already a competent intelligent investigator on the job who is familiar with it, and will work with me. You will work with me won't you Inspector?"

It was what he'd wanted. Why was he feeling wary? Because it was Holmes's idea and Holmes's terms?

Lestrade stopped putting the documents away and looked at Holmes. "I want to find out who killed these people Mr Holmes. If working with you will help me do that, I'll work with you."

To his surprise Holmes got up and came around from behind the desk. Lestrade paused with his hands full of papers and his briefcase and as he turned to face Holmes the case jarred against the desk and he
dropped the music and reports.

Without thinking he dropped to one knee to pick them up... and froze.

The silence was very loud in his ears as he felt his heart speed up and his shoulders hunch in remembered despair. As he looked at the same legs and shoes he had looked at that dreadful night when he had knelt to whore himself to this man to save Sally Donovan's life.

And then Holmes was down on one knee too, his hand just touching Lestrade's on the documents.

He looked at Holmes's face and was startled to see his own worry and confusion and.. yes... fear mirrored there.

They looked at each other, neither wanting to speak.

(He had said "Not like this, never like this." What had he meant?)

It was Lestrade who broke eye contact, shooting to his feet, leaving half the documents on the floor to be gathered up by a rather more composed Holmes.

Who brought them back to the present problem, leaving the past one still uncomfortably raw and undiscussed.

"The second murder Inspector. The woman. What do you know about her?"

He went over all he had with Holmes, photographs, reports, interview records. All they knew and suspected about Maddox and Starling, their lives, their last hours, their deaths. Holmes contributed some information about places Maddox had been frequenting and people he'd been seeing in the course of his investigations.

By the time they had finished, it was surprisingly late.

Holmes tidied the last of the papers into a neat pile. "Would you care for some dinner Inspector? "

Lestrade was rather hungry, and aside from that ugly moment the day had been surprisingly pleasant. But duty called.

As he said "No thank you Mr Holmes, I need to drop these back to the Yard" he could have sworn he saw something like disappointment on Holmes's face.

"In that case, please leave the sheet music, I wish to... examine it."

Lestrade knew he shouldn't leave evidence unsecured and unwatched, but he did it for Sherlock, why not for the brother?

"I will need it back in a day or two Mr Holmes, it's been dusted so you can remove it from the sleeves if you need to."

As he settled down in the comfortable leather seat of the black car (Holmes had insisted and Lestrade was glad to save the taxi fare) he pondered the afternoon. It was pleasant not to be called an idiot every few moments and truth be told he was rather pleased with a Holmes calling him competent and intelligent. Sherlock and Mycroft could be such different men, perhaps they weren't brothers after all...

Lestrade was wondering which space aliens had dropped Sherlock off and why when the car drew up at the Yard.

=============================

When Lestrade got into work the next morning, he was distracted from investigating the latest pile of paperwork (emailwork mostly these days, but no less revolting for that) by Stanner.

"Boss, you recall we found an SD card in Maddox's wallet? The IT guys have cracked the encryption, and you won't guess what's on it!"

"Nude pictures of Maggie Thatcher?"

Stanner reeled back theatrically "I should raise a harassment case over that remark! No. Pictures of sheet music."

Lestrade took the printouts. They might be the same ones as on the body or not, either way he should take them to Holmes.

Who, he bet, was getting his teeth into that code right now.

Easiest way to find the man was to ask... "Have more music, where do I bring it? GL" and counted the seconds in his head.

Less than 12 seconds later the answer came: "Car will be outside the Yard".

He thought briefly about handing his current list of Maddox's possible movements over to Stanner or Parker, but decided to keep them to himself for now. He suspected he should minimise their exposure to this case. "National Security" was a tricky beast, especially where Holmes was concerned.

He was shown into Holmes's office to see Holmes apparently exactly where he had left him. Something was playing rather tinny and definitely odd music, and Holmes was scribbling on various sheets of paper.

The man didn't look up or acknowledge his entrance in any way.

Lestrade was familiar with the ultra focus and knew nothing would penetrate it until the work was done. So he slid the printouts into Holmes's field of view and sat down at the side table to start on his own job of working out where to go today to trace Maddox's movements.

He tuned out the mutterings and music and concentrated on the map, the calendar, and the list. Until he was startled by a yelp of triumph.

Mycroft Holmes very seldom got to properly exercise his brain on pure logical problems. He wasn't a mathematician by preference, his strengths lay in synthesis and facts about people and things, but when required he could bend his mind to numbers and codes.

Which he had been doing for some time. He had no idea how long, the problem had hold of him now and nothing else mattered.

He was somewhat aware of people, in that he registered as unimportant his assistant's presence and absence and presence again, and someone else coming in. But only somewhat aware.

He had wrung all he could out of the data he had and was almost ready to admit defeat when three more sheets of music made themselves apparent. Two were the same as he had, but one was new... he avidly broke it open for the meat it contained.

The code fell apart into readable usable information, laid out in all its beautiful logical glory.

Mycroft Holmes laughed with pure pleasure.

He looked up to see Lestrade by the side table. Some part of his mind connected Lestrade with the new data that had appeared but that was irrelevant. All that was important was the he had broken the code.

He beamed happily at Lestrade and sparked a quick answering smile that made him laugh again.

"I have it! I know it! It's simple!" he crowed and leapt to his feet his hands full of lovely lovely data to show.

Took two steps and stumbled as his legs refused to support him.


The delighted grin on Holmes's face made Lestrade smile.

As he got up to see what the fuss was all about, Holmes leapt up from his seat to meet him waving sheets of calculations and permutations in the air.

Took two steps, and stumbled.

Lestrade caught him awkwardly, holding the man up at the end of his arms and struggling to get his body under the weight.

He managed to half push half carry Holmes back to his chair."Damn it I thought you were the one with sense!" he muttered as he got him seated.

"Have you been sitting there all night Mr Holmes? And when was the last time you ate?"

Holmes was leaning on him, so he stayed where he was for a moment.

"I'll go and find some breakfast then we go over the code Mr Holmes" he said, once he was sure all was stable, easing away from Holmes and out in search of food.

The more time he spent with Mycroft Holmes the more he saw the resemblances to Sherlock Holmes, maybe they were brothers after all. Although up to now he really had thought the man was free of Sherlock's sillier habits!

As he emerged into the outer office the PA looked up from her Blackberry in enquiry. "Mr Holmes is ready for some breakfast," he said "is there anywhere I can get some?"

She smiled blindingly at him, flowed to her feet, opened a cupboard that proved to be a concealed fridge, and passed him a tray containing wrapped sandwiches, a bottle of juice, and a glass. Which, he suspected, had been waiting for some considerable time.

"Thank you Ms....?" he said, head tipped enquiringly

"Please call me Anthea Inspector" she said, extracting a kettle from another cupboard “I will be in with tea in a moment. Or would you prefer coffee?”

Chalk that up as a win he thought. My Holmes-handling skills have promoted me to someone you talk to! "Tea is fine thank you Anthea."

He bore the tray back into the office, wondering if he’d see the Posh Bastard or the happy code solver, and was chuffed to see Holmes was still smiling. He much preferred the smiling Holmes or even the one he’d been working with on Tuesday to the usual version.

(And most definitely to the devil he'd met that night in his flat, it was hard to see them as the same man.)

He set the tray down in front of Holmes who looked at it, blinked, and came down to earth enough to say "Thank you Inspector, please help yourself."

Lestrade took a sandwich but waited to see if Holmes did. If the man started talking now he'd not eat, and that meant another collapse. Lestrade didn't want to spend his morning picking Holmes up off the
floor!

It wouldn't be necessary, Holmes inhaled a sandwich without noticing as he sorted through the papers on his desk.

"I know why Maddox was killed, and I think I know why the woman was."

"The music decodes into addresses." Holmes said, not letting Lestrade see any of the papers. "Addresses that are of.. interest to me. And to certain other people. I knew that someone was leaking them, and Maddox thought he knew how it was being done."

"So these people found he was on their trail and killed him? So what about Starling then, where does she come into it?"

"I think she was how Maddox found out. I think she was a courier, picking up the music and passing it on when told. Hence the money from no obvious source, the sporadic attendance at school, and the odd movements you have noticed."

"Payment for services, when and where required, well it fits I suppose. She must have been doing more than this job though? Unless you had a lot of addresses you didn't want known."

Holmes waved a hand dismissively "Oh undoubtedly, I imagine the whole thing was done as a job for hire. These were only some of the things she was acting as courier for."

"So why kill her then? Job finished? Or because someone caught her with Maddox and decided she'd snitched?"

"The latter I expect." said Holmes, who apparently did not have Sherlock's attitude towards food once he'd decided to eat. Lestrade couldn't work out how that many sandwiches had disappeared while Holmes was talking, but he wasn't going to complain.

The door opened and Anthea came in with a tray of tea - pot and cups and Lestrade suspected both milk and cream - and removed the empty breakfast tray.

And with her entrance, Holmes closed down. Not quite Posh Bastard, but not the open happy man he'd been a minute earlier. "Doesn't want to be seen being chummy with the Old Bill." Lestrade thought, knowing that while secretaries might fraternise with the lower orders, mandarins were a different thing. The good old English class system, alive and well.

He waited for the tea ritual to end, accepting his with milk, before resuming business.

"I'm tracking both Maddox and Starling, trying to see where and when they met, or if they ever did. And who might have met them. But it is slow going, none of Maddox's usual acquaintances know much about his movements, and finding anyone who knew her is proving difficult."

Holmes nodded "I will arrange for the CCTV footage to be examined" he said. "You have probable times and dates?"

"These are the ones I know, these are leads I am still working on. I don't suppose you have anything more?"

"Not yet Inspector, but I will let you know if my operatives come up with anything."

Lestrade knew a dismissal when he heard it, and gathered up his things. "Thank you Mr Holmes" he said and left, feeling vaguely annoyed. A feeling he stamped on. He knew Holmes's default setting was Posh Bastard, and that was what he was going to get, much as he preferred the others he'd got glimpses of. Almost enough to make a man prefer Sherlock. At last you knew where you were with him: irritating insulting know-it all git was what you got every single time.

Mycroft Holmes pondered the address list on his code sheets. Well, that explained how the safe house and witness protection information was being smuggled out, but not who was doing it. However now he knew the how, the who would not be far behind.

As his eye passed over Lestrade's empty teacup it flashed through his mind how refreshing it was to have someone who could cope with his ultra focus on a problem without needing to be trained. It had taken some time to get Anthea to see reason on the subject, and even now she *would* try to interrupt with irrelevancies like food.


================

Lestrade crossed another line off his job list. He hadn't done this much legwork since his promotion. Not only had he felt it wise to involve as few people as possible, but some bug or other had gone through the place like the Grim Reaper and he was shockingly short handed.

Meaning that everyone left was working their legs off and he had no one to hand this to even if he'd wanted to.

He'd tracked Maddox's movements in the week before his death via interview and phone records and credit card receipts, it definitely looked like he was looking for people in places he didn't normally go to. That or he'd managed to hide a second life as a middle-aged tragic clubber just a lookin' for lurve from everyone he knew. He'd been in and out of all sorts of places notable only for drinking and loud music.

Some of which, it appeared, Lyn Starling had also been to.

He'd have thought it more people would have remembered her - tallish woman with Chinese ancestry and an art student haircut - than Maddox, but he'd been so out of place that door staff had taken note. "Trying, you know? Fish out of water mate. Finding his lost youth or something but I reckon he was more into James Last than House if you know what I mean."

He cast an eye over the current progress boards, wished with all his heart he could fill that vacant DC slot before someone dropped dead of overwork, and headed out.

The attack didn't catch him entirely by surprise. He'd been driving a desk for years, and Serious Crimes cops see crime scenes only when the crims are long gone, but he'd been in uniform for six years in one of the nastier boroughs in London so he knew trouble when he saw it coming.

Even though trouble was very average. Average height, average clothing, average face, average everything.

There weren't that many people on the street this time of night, so he could be properly aware of everyone in sight. He was aware of Mr Average and that something wasn't quite right. What it was he couldn't have told you, but when Mr Average drifted in his direction for no reason, he noticed. And when Mr Average began to ask him something and stepped so close to do so, he was already moving out of the way as the knife came whistling up to where his chest had been.

He twisted and the blade mostly missed him, cutting coat and shirt and by the sharp sting cutting him.

He didn't even think about being a hero. Twenty years ago and preferably with a stab vest and a radio he might have taken an assassin on, but this man knew how to use a knife and Lestrade had no desire to serve as an anatomy lesson for passers-by. He had an impressive scar to remind him of just what happens when you get cut, he didn't want to complete the set.

He slammed his fist out more by reflex than anything else, connected with something, hoped that slowed Mr Average down a fraction, and got the hell out.

Mr Average had the same idea, he clearly wasn't interested in knifing someone who knew he was going to do it for which Lestrade was grateful. Not grateful enough to pursue though, only an idiot (or a fit young man with something to prove) goes after an armed killer when he himself is armed with nothing more than indignation.

Once in his flat he investigated the damage. His coat was history, his shirt ditto, but the only mark on him was a little scratch that was hardly worth mentioning.

Of course the cut clothing was evidence and so he would have to trek back to the Yard to get everything photographed and documented and filed.

"Ah well," he thought as he finally got into bed some hours later "I must be getting close. You don't knife someone who isn't on your track."

================

Mycroft Holmes looked up as Lestrade entered his office, gesturing the man to a seat as he finished the current round of briefing notes on the Kashmiri situation.

Putting some files on the table, the Inspector sat down, a definite smile on his face.

And when he had Mycroft's attention he dropped a bomb.

"I know we are close. He had a go at me last night"

Mycroft's heart thumped hard once, although he did not allow anything beyond polite interest to show on his face.

"Do you mean you were attacked last night Inspector? You don't seem to be injured."

"I'm not, although it was a near thing. He had to get close for that move he likes and I didn't let him. He cut my coat then ran like a rabbit."

Mycroft had not considered that he needed to put Lestrade under close surveillance, clearly an oversight that must be remedied.

"I see. Well, you will need to take precautions now, I will assign you a bodyguard. A car and driver are probably the most sensible solution."

Lestrade looked rather upset at that. "I can't drag a bodyguard about, never mind one of your cars! I will be spending the rest of the week ducking in and out of sleaze spots all over Soho, I can't take muscle with me! No one will talk to me then."

Mycroft raised an eyebrow and waved his fingers at Lestrade's left arm. "And that is healed well enough to fight knife-wielding killers with? He may not run away next time."

"You tell me, I bet you've been looking at my medical records."

"No. I haven't. I don't need to. You have been doing physiotherapy exercises and stretches at frequent intervals in the times you have been here, and have more than once massaged the forearm as though it hurt. While you deliberately use your left hand and arm more than you did before the injury you still don't trust it as you are very careful what you do with it."

Lestrade stopped stretching his left hand, a nervous tic Mycroft was sure he had not realised he had.

"That doesn't matter. If I'm a target I'm a target! It's part of the job. You have what you need anyway. So leave me to do my job, I know what he looks like now, and I'll be ready for him."

Mycroft huffed. "You are only interested in the murders, the people passing information don't know that, if they think you are after them they may send someone else."

Lestrade bristled like a fighting dog. "I'm not an invalid, and I know my job. Which is finding the man who killed Geoffrey Maddox and Lyn Starling. If trouble comes from that, then it does. The Met will manage."

Mycroft let it go. He would not be able to force a bodyguard on the foolish man, but a suitably configured close surveillance team would be a reasonable substitute.

Lestrade kept eye contact with Holmes for a little longer then slowly relaxed and went back to his papers.

"I think the key is this club here. It's the only place I've found that Starling has been in more than once that Maddox has been to, and I was talking to the doorman the night before I was attacked. I've got some club camera stuff here, what do you have?"

He could, of course, have looked through footage on his own. Getting the CCTV tapes was easy enough after all. But not only was Holmes way more experienced in interpreting the fuzzy grainy stuff, Lestrade had a strong suspicion that Holmes knew the killer. Maddox had, after all. And while your average city lawyer might be a bottom-feeding scumbag, few of them numbered hands-on killers amongst their acquaintanceship if they weren't working for spooks. Spooks like Mycroft Holmes.

So when he handed Holmes the card containing the club camera data, and when Holmes called up the outside CCTV footage, he was watching Holmes with more attention than he was watching the screen. Because he knew when the man he had tagged as "Mr Average" in his mind would turn up on the club's camera that watched the door area, and he wanted to see Holmes's reaction.

He wasn't disappointed.

"You know him." he said. The reaction had been very very small, but it had been there. Posh Bastard was very good, but Lestrade bet he'd been hoping he wouldn't see that face, and when he had, there'd been a tiny tell. Just enough.

"Know whom Inspector?"

"The killer. That's him there, and you know him. You were hoping it wasn't him, but now you know it is. Who is he Mr Holmes? Where can I find him?"

Holmes leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers. Lestrade waited for Holmes to invoke national security, or insult his intelligence, or just sit there looking snootily superior hoping Lestrade would back down.

He kept pushing. "You know who it is, but you didn't know before, I'd lay odds. So he wasn't working for you, he was working for these people who are actively against you, trading in information. Information secret enough to go to these lengths to smuggle it out. Information that can't be trusted to the internet, information that has to be encoded in a way that the couriers can't sell or decode, but is easily enough encoded and sent without needing a pad or a book page or any of the usual things."

Holmes examined his nails, saying nothing.

"We want him for the killing. If he's hired help he won't know much about them. He's probably upset them anyway, given he messed up with that wallet. The toxicologists say there’s traces of opiates in that palm print. Which is probably why he took the money, was jonesing at the time, so just grabbed the cash and ran. If he’s using then he’s not reliable is he? He's betrayed you already, why cover for him?"

He waited, watching Holmes, hoping the man would see reason. Whoever the killer had been in Holmes’s organisation he was clearly on his own now. Did Holmes know him personally? Or was he shielding him because he didn't want the coppers near any of his people, ex or not? Or because he wanted to clean up that loose end himself?

Then there was silence.

Finally Holmes came to a decision.

"The man's name is Martin Alexander. The address I have for him is in Croydon. He is a dangerous man Inspector, I trust you will take backup?"

Lestrade grinned at him "I don't like someone carving me up like the Sunday roast. I'll let the Armed Response boyos do the hard work."

He gathered his papers, gestured for the club camera card which Holmes handed over.

"Thank you Mr Holmes." he said, meaning it.

"You are welcome Inspector" said Mycroft Holmes, meaning it too.

========================

Part Eight: Framed

Date: 2010-12-01 11:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stellary.livejournal.com
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this! It was like a miracle!

Omg omg Lestrade's going to get himself in trouble isn't he isn't he? There is no way he will not go and at least see the guy get arrested.

And and finally! He's seen My's sweet side! Oh My was so adorable! I love all the scenes with them in My's office, just so comfortable and nice - except for the uncomfortable moments ^^"

Oh I love you for writing this, will definitely read it again soon, although translating this is going to be a pain! *g*

Date: 2010-12-02 09:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stellary.livejournal.com
Now that Lestrade's got a taste of My's charm, will he want more? Oh I can't wait for part 8! (Sorry, being greedy.)

Date: 2010-12-01 11:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nerfi-tiri.livejournal.com
Yay, update! I totally love this series. Your characterizations are just awesome :) Hope to see more soon!

Date: 2010-12-09 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomly-rusted.livejournal.com
R8 went out today, R9 is in the planning stages. Dealing with characters is what is going to take the time!

Date: 2010-12-02 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] calccarbonate.livejournal.com
all good things come to those who wait. and this chapter was every bit worth waiting for. absolutely. thank you so much!

Date: 2010-12-09 07:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomly-rusted.livejournal.com
I hope you like R8, it is one of the reasons R7 took so long!

Date: 2010-12-02 05:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mariole.livejournal.com
Ooh, very exciting! I enjoyed the attack, and Lestrade's musings about the differences between the Holmes brothers. Thanks for the read!

Date: 2010-12-02 07:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darthhellokitty.livejournal.com
Oh, *so* pleased to see more of this!

Even though trouble was very average. Average height, average clothing, average face, average everything.

Easy guy to miss... Yikes for the stabber guy getting TOO close to Lestrade! Mycroft wasn't happy with that...

Date: 2010-12-02 09:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dr-shinigami.livejournal.com
Oh YESSSS. A Goddess of this ship returns with her manuscripts)))
Really, this sequence is about being the most fine-written and intense thing I've read here. Do keep this up. It's really gorgeous.

P.S.: Maybe one day my fellow mates will translate this into Russian - would you mind that?

Date: 2010-12-02 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomly-rusted.livejournal.com
Not at all, although Llyd is already doing it I believe.

Date: 2010-12-02 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dr-shinigami.livejournal.com
Ah, I see; she told me she was about to make the translation, but I didn't know she already had your permission))) Many thanks for that!)))

Date: 2010-12-03 05:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alice-day.livejournal.com
This? Is an AMAZING series. Absolutely superb plotting, and your character development is excellent. Looking forward to more!

Date: 2010-12-09 07:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomly-rusted.livejournal.com
Thank you! There is more coming although the character development is going to slow the pace of Part 9. I know what has to happen but not how.

Date: 2010-12-05 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rusty-armour.livejournal.com
I have to apologize for not reading and reviewing sooner. It's been kind of a hectic few days and I kept having to set this latest installment aside, even though I hated doing so. Thankfully, I was able to finish reading it today. :-)

I loved seeing Lestrade working with Mycroft! They make such an awesome team! :-D It was also great to see Lestrade relax a little and let down his barriers enough to recognize that Mycroft has other sides to his character and isn't just a heartless posh bastard. I particularly liked the way Lestrade realized that the time he spent working on the case with Mycroft had actually been pleasant and that Mycroft is capable of smiling in a nice "happy code solver" way and can push the posh bastard persona aside.

I probably should have mentioned this first, but I was impressed by the intricate plot of this story. I'm a sucker for secret spy networks and codes and I love the idea of sheet music being used to supply addresses.

Date: 2010-12-09 07:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomly-rusted.livejournal.com
Glad you liked the plot! There were two possible music codes, my original one and one bronwynferchdai worked out which was very fiendish but in the end the actual code breaking details ended up on the cutting room floor. I did have fun showing Lestrade is a competent copper!

Date: 2010-12-07 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blooms84.livejournal.com
I agree--this was SO worth waiting for. I really love the inside of Lestrade's head throughout the tale, his ever changing responses to the ever changing Mycroft, and the plot itself it --if there were actual pages!--a page turner! You let the details out in such a slow, tantalizing way--and the code in sheet music is wonderful. Love the entire scene with Mycroft breaking the code--reactions, Anthea and her tray, the whole thing. Totally understand why it takes awhile to craft these episodes, but really can't wait for more. Wonderful writing and one of my favorite incarnations of Mycroft ever.

Date: 2010-12-09 07:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomly-rusted.livejournal.com
R7 took a while because I was having problems with some plot things and because R8 demanded to be written first!

Alas R9 might be a while too I fear.

Date: 2010-12-09 01:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blooms84.livejournal.com
oh, r_r--thanks for letting me know 8 is up--eagerly looking forward to reading! counting the minutes until my lunchbreak now!!!!

Getting even better!

Date: 2011-02-01 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] weefreethings.livejournal.com
Woohoo! I really like that this story was centered on a mystery plot, rather than on the M/L relationship. I don't think it hurt the relationship story a bit to be sidelined, because it was nice to see it developing without the usual tension between the two. The danger from outside was great. Not only did it driving them to work together, it could have carried the story on its own.

What you show us of a potential M/L friendship or romance is charming, but the reminders of the remaining obstacles are quite discouraging. The argument over whether to let Lestrade continue the investigation (ostensibly over giving him a bodyguard) is as thrilling as the scene where the knife-guy goes after Lestrade. And Mycroft's reluctant capitulation definitely brings hope to this readers' heart.

"My Holmes-handling skills have promoted me to someone you talk to!" So that's why she talks to John? The class conflict here is funny and incredibly sad.

Re: Getting even better!

Date: 2011-02-02 01:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomly-rusted.livejournal.com
The class conflict is a big problem for Lestrade. And for Mycroft who knows about it of course, but only intellectually. It will have to be dealt with.

Date: 2011-02-11 11:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nathcoelho.livejournal.com

relationship better now, huh?
well..great fic, really! =D

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